A local teacher wants to make a difference in Maori participation after being awarded the 2018 Woolf Fisher Fellowship for Science.

Erina Butterworth, head of science at Rotorua Lakes High School, was shocked when she found out she had won the award.

"I had no idea what was happening, but I was very humbled. I've been teaching for eight years now and never did I think I would have won an award this prestigious, let alone this early."

The Woolf Fisher Trust awards fellowships each year to teachers who display excellence in scientific and general education.

Advertisement

Butterworth receives a three-week, all-expenses-paid trip for two to a country of her choice.

Rotorua Lakes High School teacher Erina Butterworth says she is very humbled by her Woolf Fisher Fellowship for Science win. Photo / Ben Fraser
Rotorua Lakes High School teacher Erina Butterworth says she is very humbled by her Woolf Fisher Fellowship for Science win. Photo / Ben Fraser

The intention of the trip is for Butterworth to examine teaching methods from around the world.

Rotorua Lakes High School principal Bruce Walker put Butterworth forward without her knowledge.

"Schools are invited to nominate a teacher if the commission has heard good things. How they hear I have no idea. It's very top secret," Walker said.

Walker and Butterworth's mother were the only two people who knew she was up for the award.

"I had to tell her mother because without her I wouldn't have been able to provide the trust with all the information they needed."

Butterworth said she had no idea how she didn't figure it out sooner.

"I'm usually quite a suspicious person so I'm surprised I didn't catch them communicating behind my back."

She isn't sure which country she will go to, but knows what she wants to gain from it.

"I want to explore how other schools around the world integrate culture into their learning.

"I was the only Maori in my biology and chemistry class when I went to school so I want to encourage Maori involvement in these subjects and explore new ways to do this."

Walker said Butterworth had already made progress with student participation.

"She has already helped so much by improving junior participation in the science fair where we have gone from one of the lowest in participation to one of the biggest in the Bay of Plenty," he said.

"Hopefully she learns a lot on her overseas trip to improve Maori student engagement in the sciences."

Butterworth is considering Hawaii and Canada but said she will have to come to an agreement with her husband, Joe.

"My husband is coming with me so wherever we go there will have to be some great fishing spots to please him."